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Israeli prime minister: Don't be fooled by Iran's 'half-measures'

September 24, 2013|By Batsheva Sobelman

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he welcomed President Obama's comments about Iran to the United Nations but remains wary of the Islamic Republic's intentions.

Delivering a video statement that was issued between Obama's speech and that of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Netanyahu said he appreciates Obama's saying that Iran will have to back its conciliatory words with "action that is  transparent and verifiable."

Netanyahu has so far dismissed the new tone from Tehran that the West finds potentially encouraging, suggesting it is a cunning facade. "Iran thinks soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb,"  he said.

Netanyahu warned that, like North Korea, Iran would make "cosmetic changes" to rid itself of sanctions but not give up pursuing nuclear weapons capability. 

 Netanyahu intends to use North Korea as a cautionary example in his own speech at the United Nations next week, news reports say.

Israel is the only nuclear power in the region, but has never officially acknowledged the existence of its nuclear program.

Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that "truly dismantles Iran's capability to develop nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said. However, "Israel will not be fooled" by half-measures providing a smoke-screen, he said, "and the world should not be fooled either."

Netanyahu will meet with Obama next Monday and will speak at the United Nations the following day.

The prime minister has also instructed Israel's U.N. delegation to absent itself during Rouhani's speech. Netanyahu said that despite the new president's "charm offensive," the government's policies toward Israel remain the same, including the refusal to denounce Holocaust deniers.

Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, expressed doubt about the Holocaust on several occasions.

Netanyahu's instruction drew the criticism of one of his Cabinet members, Finance Minister Yair Lapid.

Israel musn't come across as "serial refusers" of negotiations and peaceful solutions, Lapid said. Boycotting or walking out of the United Nations plenum are off-point in today's diplomacy, the minister posted on Facebook.

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